Life is the constant production of karma (actions), whether through our physical or mental bodies. Every karma we produce will leave impressions, and this karmic impression is called karma-wasana. Then, karma-wasana will motivate us to do-think-feel again. And new things we do-think-feel create new karma-wasana. And so the wheel keeps turning.
It is mentioned in some texts that karma-wasana (karmic impressions) can be burned away. Burning karma-wasana is the primary goal of yoga. The Yogi who can burn all his karma-wasana will be free from the cycle of karma-phala (actions and its following consequences). In other words, attain enlightenment.
The Fire used to burn karma-wasana is called the Śiwa Fire (śiwāgni). Drawing from the teachings of Balinese philosophical texts (Tattwa/ Tutur), śiwa refers to a state of consciousness, not a deity. To put it another way, what is capable of burning consciousness is Śiwa-consciousness.
Śiwa-consciousness is the opposite of ahangkāra or ego-consciousness – one is the consciousness that is pure and free from the attachment of tendencies, while the other is the constructed by karma-wasana. Another term for this consciousness is called sphaṭikajñāna, i.e., crystal-clear consciousness.
Thus, burning karma-wasana with the Fire of Śiwa means establishing a pure and tendency-free consciousness. Of course, this is not an easy task because human life is filled with instinctive impulses, emotional motivations, and individual interests. Because it is not easy, achieving this final goal can take several lifetimes.
However, we can be adopted these teachings to help us overcome various daily challenges. For example, to reduce mental pressure and stress due to multiple problems that occur in life.
The ups and downs of our lives are caused by the various “left behind” or emotional impressions produced by the things we do. When we meet and interact with someone, we eat something when we see, hear, or visit a place. All of that gives rise to its emotional impressions.
The stronger the emotional impression left behind, the stronger the lasting memory. Therefore, the things we remember most are either very pleasant or sad; we find it hard to forget people we hate or love so much. Moments and people that carry a strong emotional impression will always stay. The unfortunate part is that if what eventually settles is an event or person that causes negative emotional impressions (hate, sadness, revenge, fear, inferiority, and the like).
All these emotional impressions are coloring our consciousness. Eventually, our crystal consciousness no longer becomes clear but is colored by karma-wasana.
How to break away from this cycle?
An ancient Balinese poem entitled Kakawin Dharma Śūnya advises to “be in between the two (ri pantaraning rwa mungguha kita).” Life is shaped by duality; good-bad, happy-sad, right-wrong, and so on. And it has become a natural human urge to be among one of them; obsessed with pleasure and hated sadness; want to be correct, not wrong; want what is good and reject all that is considered bad. The more extreme we are in one of the poles of duality, the greater the emotional turmoil it causes. Finally, the greater the wasana produced, and the stronger the karmic impulse generated.
Learning to be in between the two is learning to be neutral. Neutrality like this makes emotional turmoil more stable. Like water in a pool, if the turbulence on the surface has calmed down, then what is in the pool can be seen clearly, and the moonlight can be perfectly reflected. Likewise, if we position ourselves between the two, we can see things more clearly and then react to them more wisely. In this process, not only the wasanas are reduced, but the reactive impulses (rajas-tamas) are also decreased so that our chances of doing new reckless karmas are lessened.
By positioning ourselves to be between the two, we prevent ourselves from being carried away by the reactive impulses of past karma-wasana (past emotional impressions). In addition, it also prevents the creation of new karma caused by this impulse.
But again, even though it’s easy to write and read, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Since the human mind results from years of construction, reshaping it in a new form and building new pattern will take time and effort.